This Cowardice Cannot Stand

There is no better encapsulation of the difference between the two American political parties than this: Republicans start from the presumption that “treason” and “spying” will be prosecuted without evidence, while Democrats start from the presumption that only once they have seen all the evidence of everything ever, they might conclude that some further investigation is warranted.

Donald Trump leads deranged stadium rallies in chanting “lock them up” without even specifying who committed what crime. Democrats, faced with a case of what would be felony obstruction of justice but for a legal guidance against prosecuting a sitting president, insist that they cannot initiate impeachment proceedings because they need to gather more information.

This isn’t a new problem. Those who feared that the Mueller Report would never be the smoking gun Democrats were dreaming of warned that limiting the scope to criminal obstruction and illegal “collusion” needlessly blocked out a massive range of criminal and impeachable offenses committed by Trump and his confederates.

For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, political calculus continues to take precedence over the rule of law. That position is becoming more and more untenable, as cracks appear in the Democratic front and even a Republican member of Congress is able to point out what is right in front of us. “Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” GOP Rep. Justin Amash understands what is obvious to anyone who has read the Mueller report in good faith: We have more than enough data to name and investigate the crime. Amash has been joined by a fistful of renegade Democrats who are finally content to say “we know enough.” If not enough to impeach, then at least enough to initiate an inquiry.

The problem is that if congressional Democrats refuse to see the big picture, after the staggering proof put forth in the Mueller report, the daily reports of gross financial misconduct and corruption, and the administration’s growing refusal to accede to any form of congressional oversight, one has to wonder what hypothetical evidence might persuade them that, um, CRIMES.

Perhaps some belief in Trump’s infamous boast that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot a man without losing support has spooked Democrats to the point of paralysis. The reality is that Democratic Leaders on the Hill know what criminal obstruction looks like, they’re just too terrified to say so. At any rate, I would stay off of Fifth Avenue.

The other problem is that House Democrats want to look like measured and rational adults in the face of the biggest toddler tantrum ever witnessed in presidential history, one in which the Constitution is being re-purposed as a diaper. But as any parent or even uncertified Red Cross babysitter will tell you, every time you decline to impose consequences, you move the line for acceptable behavior a little further.

Mueller is himself trying to look measured and rational by demurring from testifying. Looking adult and rational in the face of abject insanity is not always synonymous with bravery, especially when the other side is shouting TREASON and LOCK THEM UP and INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS.

“But wait!” Democratic leadership might say. “What’s the downside of these drawn-out court fights brought on by what is itself impeachable conduct?” (See: Article III of the Nixon impeachment articles). The downside is the appearance that there is virtually nothing Trump could do to trigger an impeachment proceeding, something Trump sees, relishes, and will bank on in whatever he does next.

Democrats who say they want to focus on the economy, or the 2020 elections, or other “kitchen table” issues give up more and more authority to the reckless, power-snatching Gröpenführer by the day. By attaching no real consequence, they are essentially telling the country that Steven Mnuchin can keep defying House subpoenas of the president’s tax records and Donald McGahn can keep refusing to testify on obstruction of justice.

In ceding that power to Trump, who already believes himself to be all-powerful, they’re making it so.

Liquid Water on Pluto?

Prior to 2015, scientists knew little about Pluto, mainly because it is dim and small from Earth’s perspective, not to mention 4.67 billion miles away.

When NASA’s New Horizons space probe flew by the far-away dwarf planet, imaging it in unprecedented detail, the historic mission raised more questions than answers. For one, the probe’s findings raised suspicions that some of Pluto’s mountains were formed on a bedrock of water ice.

Image result for pluto

According to a new study, computer simulations provide have provided compelling evidence that an insulating layer near the surface is keeping a subsurface ocean from freezing beneath Pluto’s ice. In other words, there could be a liquid ocean on the planet.

A team of Japanese scientists published the study, proposing that such an otherworldly idea is possible because a thin layer of ice containing trapped gas molecules, known as gas hydrates, at the bottom of the ice shell could be insulating the ocean.  By calculating Pluto’s temperature and the thickness of the ice shell, the scientists concluded that the gas hydrates would be enough to maintain a subsurface ocean.

Understanding how a subsurface ocean can exist on Pluto will provide scientists with invaluable information to better understand how similar bodies of water can exist on other planets, too. Liquid water oceans are thought to exist inside icy satellites of gas giants such as Europa and Enceladus. Understanding the survival of subsurface oceans is of fundamental importance not only to planetary science but also to astrobiology.

Scientists have been repeatedly surprised and bewildered by the data New Horizons collected and processed from its flyby in 2015. Even the initial photos showed unexpected complexity of the dwarf planet.

The study is published in in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Werd Perfect

The Voynich manuscript, sometimes described as the ‘world’s most mysterious text,’ may be written in proto-Romance, a language that arose from a blend of spoken Latin (Vulgar Latin) and other languages across the Mediterranean during the early Medieval period following the collapse of the Roman Empire and subsequently evolved into the many Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, and Galician).

The manuscript originates from Castello Aragonese, an island castle and citadel off Ischia, Italy, and was compiled by a Dominican nun as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, according to research by the University of Bristol.

The Voynich manuscript, named after the Polish-American antiquarian book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912, is a small book 23.5 x 16.2 cm of about 240 pages. Nearly every page of the manuscript contains scientific and botanical drawings in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red. The vellum used in the book was carbon dated to 1404-1438.

The Voynich manuscript is written in proto-Romance, ubiquitous in the Mediterranean during the Medieval period, but it was seldom written in official or important documents because Latin was the language of church and government. As a result, proto-Romance was moslty lost from the record.

The manuscript’s alphabet is a combination of unfamiliar and more familiar symbols. It includes no dedicated punctuation marks, although some letters have symbol variants to indicate punctuation or phonetic accents. All of the letters are in lower case and there are no double consonants.

Translations reveal that the manuscript is a compendium of information on herbal remedies, therapeutic bathing and astrological readings concerning matters of the female mind, the body, reproduction, parenting, and of the heart in accordance with the Catholic and Roman pagan religious beliefs of Mediterranean Europeans during the late Medieval period.

It also tells the adventurous, story of a rescue mission, by ship, to save the victims of a volcanic eruption in the Tyrrhenian Sea that began on the evening of the 4 February 1444. Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, led the rescue mission as regent during the absence of her husband, King Alfonso V of Aragon who was otherwise occupied, having only recently conquered and taken control of Naples in February 1443.

The island of Ischia, Italy is historically famous for its hot volcanic spas, which exist to this day. The manuscript has many images of naked women bathing in them, both recreationally and therapeutically. Queen Maria and her court are even shown conducting trade negotiations whilst bathing. The spa lifestyle was highly regarded as a form of physical cleansing and spiritual communion, as well as a general means of relaxation and leisure.

The next step is to use this knowledge to translate the entire manuscript and compile a lexicon, which will take some time and funding.

paper was published online April 29 in the journal Romance Studies.